Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Hindus Urge Pope to Reconsider Ordination of Women Priests"

"Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that women could disseminate God’s message as skillfully as men and deserved equal and full participation and access in religion

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that as women were equal partners in the society, so they should be equal partners in the religion also. He urged Vatican to be more kind to Roman Catholic women as exclusion of women from religious services, just because they were female, was very unfair and ungodly.

Quoting Hindu scriptures, Rajan Zed says: Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased. Men and women are equal in the eyes of God and religions should respect that, Zed stresses and adds that time has now come for the women priests and bishops.
Zed suggested that theologians and canonists of the Church needed to address this issue urgently; re-evaluate Church doctrine, theology, male hierarchy and history; and give women a chance. Women should be ordained to priesthood and should perform the same functions as male priests. Treating women as not equal to men was clearly a case of discrimination promoting gender inequality.
Church’s Cannon Law 1024 says—Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination.
Rajan Zed noted that there had been, however, some positive signs regarding status of women in Roman Catholic Church as Vatican invited women to participate in the Synod of Bishops in 2010 and 2008 and girls outnumbered boys for the first time at the altar servers gathering in Vatican in 2010, where about 60 percent of young pilgrims were reportedly female. Holy See being the largest religious organization in the world should show exemplary leadership in women equality to the rest of the planet, Zed pointed out.
Zed argued that reprimanding of the US Catholic nuns’ group, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), founded in 1956, by Vatican for reportedly raising the subject of ordination of women and other issues was unfortunate. Mission of LCWR, an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in USA, included “fostering dialogue and collaboration among religious congregations”, “developing models for initiating and strengthening relationships with groups concerned with the needs of society”, etc.
Roman Catholic Church, largest of the Christian denominations with about 1.2 billion adherents, is headed by Pope and headquartered in Vatican. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal."
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Let's hear it for Hindu Leader Rajan Zed for affirming gender equality in religion including the Catholic Church. Women are created as equal images of God. The Vatican cannot continue to discriminate against women and blame God for it.  Zed gently, but firmly, reproved the Vatican for its reprimand of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Hopefully, millions of believers will join in to resist the Vatican's move to burn the nuns.
 It is my prayer that the LCWR and the women's religious orders will declare their independence from the Vatican, and affirm their Sisters' call to ordination.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have nun-priests serving God's people in inclusive communities of faith.
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests will ordain women religious who have served God's people for decades. It is time for all of us to stand in solidarity with the nuns and for the women religious to declare that they will not participate in their oppression by the Vatican. Then they will be "free at last!" 
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests

Vatican Reprimands a Group of U.S. Nuns and Plans Changes By LAURIE GOODSTEIN/ New York Times

"The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.
The conference is an umbrella organization of women’s religious communities, and claims 1,500 members who represent 80 percent of the Catholic sisters in the United States...
“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.
“I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics...
They have been given up to five years to revise the group’s statutes, approve of every speaker at the group’s public programs and replace a handbook the group used to facilitate dialogue on matters that the Vatican said should be settled doctrine. They are also supposed to review the Leadership Conference’s links with Network and another organization, the Resource Center for Religious Life..."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Clips on Vatican Reprimand of Nuns/ "Burn the Nuns"

Related posting: Sr Simone Campbell: Vatican Reprimand 'Like A Sock In
The Stomach' - 4 min audio NPR

Vatican Cracks Down on “Radical, Feminist” Nuns

Letter by Theologian John Shea Requesting a Clear and Credible Theological Explanation of Why Women are Not Being Ordained to the Priesthood in the Catholic Church

The Beginning of Lent, 2012 

Dear Archbishop O’Brien, 

  I am writing to you and to all the ordinaries of the dioceses in the United States to ask you and your fellow bishops in your role as teachers to provide a clear and credible theological explanation of why women are not being ordained to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. 

 I write not to challenge the teaching of the church as set forth in the 1994 Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis ,  concerning priestly ordination. My concern is the theological explanation  of this teaching. Theology I take to be essentially what Anselm said it is, “faith seeking understanding.” 

 I teach in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. As you might expect, in the school we have a number of students—women and men—who are preparing for ministry of one kind or another. As serious students of theology and ministry, the issue of women’s ordination is extremely important for many of them—how this issue is now understood and has been in the past, what the requirements for ordination are, and especially what a clear and adequate theological explanation of this teaching might be. For some of our students, this issue is the most important one they wrestle with. For some of them, what resolution they come to determines whether or not they stay in the Catholic Church. 

  Yet, in the Catholic Church there is a rule of silence. We are told that women’s ordination cannot be discussed. The issue that cries for  theological explanation is not to be discussed in schools that have theological explanation as one of their prime reasons for being. In other settings, however, rather abstruse arguments are put forward, usually around “bride ofChrist” symbolism or with a suggestion such as ordination is “God’s gift to men.” Several years ago, as you know, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the ordination of women was a “grave crime” akin to pedophilia. My sense is that these comments are found to be more puzzling, or bizarre, or embarrassing than seriously theological. They beg the issue, raising more questions than they answer.  

   In case you are wondering who this person is who is writing to you, I am an Augustinian priest, solemnly professed for 50 years, teaching at the School of Theology and Ministry of Boston College. Before coming to Boston College in 2003, I taught for many years in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University. My areas of expertise are in pastoral care and counseling (Fellow, American Association of Pastoral Counselors) and the psychology of religious development (Ph.D., Psychology of Religion, University of Ottawa), areas that today would be considered practical theology.

I also have graduate degrees in theology, philosophy, pastoral counseling, and social work. 

I mention this background because in all of my study, in all of my training, in all of my counseling experience, and in all of my thirty years of teaching I have not come across a single credible thinker who holds that women are not fully able to provide pastoral care . Likewise, I have not come across a single credible thinker who holds that women are deficient in religious development or maturity . From the perspective of practical theology—a theology of the living church—I find there is absolutely nothing that does not support the ordination of women to the priesthood. 

Therefore, I too am looking to you and your fellow bishops for a serious  theological explanation of the church’s teaching on women’s ordination. 

  Not being an historical or a sacramental theologian, I have attempted to keep abreast of some of the contemporary research. Perhaps in the mainstream of that research is Gary Macy’s The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West . Macy, a serious scholar by any account, begins the Preface of the book by saying: “The 

fact that women were ordained for the first twelve hundred years of Christianity will surprise many people. It surprised me when I first discovered it.” Chapter 4, “Defining Women Out of Ordination,” is as disturbing ecclesially as it is fascinating historically. Without doubt, patriarchy was alive and well in the medieval church. 

 All the historical reasons offered against the ordination of women ultimately boil down to the one theological explanation the Vatican actually did offer a number of years ago: women cannot be ordained because they are “not fully in the likeness of Jesus.” It seems to me, however, that to hold that women are not fully in the likeness of Jesus is to engage in heresy. It is to say that women are not fully redeemed by Jesus. It is to say that women are not made whole by the saving favor of our God. The statement of the Vatican on the ordination of women substitutes gender biology for Christian theology, privileging Jesus’ maleness instead of his full humanness.  

 Archbishop O’Brien, can you actually support this theological explanation offered by the Vatican? Is the theological reason why women cannot be ordained because they are “not fully in the likeness of Jesus”? 

 As you know, for centuries the question in the church was whether or not women had souls, and if they did, were they equal to those of men. Now, with an understanding of the person more as body than soul, the question is whether or not women have bodies equal to those of men. Is not Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, the Patriarch of Lisbon, right when speaking on this issue he clearly affirms the “fundamental equality of all members of the Church”?  

 Since 1986, I have been calling every four years for open discussion of women’s ordination at the chapters of my province, the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova. In September of 2010, I wrote to Father Robert Prevost, O.S.A. in Rome, the Prior General of the Augustinian Order, asking “that I be officially recognized as stepping aside from the public exercise of priesthood until women are ordained as priests in our church.” Eventually, I heard back from the Vicar General saying there was “no category” for what I am asking. In February of 2011, I wrote to you, the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston; to my Provincial, Reverend AnthonyGenovese, O.S.A.; to Reverend Mark Massa, S.J., Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College; and to Dr. Thomas Groome, my chair at the school, informing them that I was stepping aside from active ministry as a priest until women are ordained.  

As a way of giving some context in my letter to Father Prevost, I told the following story. In 1991, I was invited to India to give a paper at a conference in Madras (now Chennai) honoring the life and work of Father D. S. Amalorpavadass. After the conference, I offered a workshop on “Listening Skills in Pastoral Counselling.” As I was describing these skills, a priest from a neighboring country said: “Can I ask you a practi cal question?” I said: “Of course.”

And then he proceed to tell me that the most pressing pastoral problem he was facing was that mothers were killing their own baby girls. The families were too poor to provide a dowry for them and it would be too difficult to keep them. Later, as I was reflecting on the horror of mothers being made to kill their own daughters, 

I asked myself: “How can the church respond to this?” And then it came to me: “How can the church talk about the dignity of women when it also sees women as inferior to men, as in a ‘state of subjection,’ as not fully in the likeness of Jesus?” I write to you to ask you in your role as a bishop in the church to craft a serious theological explanation of why women are not able to be ordained.

I also ask that you speak with your fellow bishops so that you can lift the rule of silence on this issue. If you agree with the church’s statements on women’s ordination, please have the courage to teach about this issue in a way that mature, intelligent adults can appreciate, taking into account Jesus’ relating to women and the actual history of ordination. If you have serious theological problems with the church’s statements on women’s ordination, please have the courage to teach about this issue with pastoral care so that the hemorrhaging in our church can begin to stop. Whatever your position ultimately may be, our church—including the students of theology and ministry at Boston College and elsewhere across the country—is in desperate need of your honesty, openness, informed clarity, and leadership. 

A friend of mine is fond of saying that in the church today authority trumps theology every time. If this is true, it is clearly not a strategy for the long term. Is there a better way? Can authority and theology actually strengthen each other for the good of all the people of God? 

It is the beginning of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, a time of for all of us in the church to be mindful of how we are in our caring and in our justice. Archbishop O’Brien, is providing a serious theological explanation of why women are not being ordained in the 
church something you can do as part of your teaching responsibility as a bishop, as part of your caring and your justice? 

 John J. Shea, O.S.A., Ph.D., M.S.W. 
Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Care and 
Counseling; Dual Degree Director (MA/MA 
and MA/MSW) 
School of Theology and Ministry 
Boston College 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Homily by Bridget Mary Meehan at Ordination of Miriam Picconi and Wanda Russell as Priests in Florida on April 14, 2012

Left to right: Miriam Picconi, Bridget Mary, Wanda Russell
 Today we rejoice because two women, Miriam Picconi and Wanda Russell will be ordained as Roman Catholic Woman Priests in a historic ordination in northeast Florida at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Ormond Beach. Together Miriam and Wanda stand on the margins with us in a renewed priestly ministry in an inclusive Catholic Church where all are welcome to receive sacraments. Like St. Mary of Magdala, the apostle to the apostles, Miriam and Wanda, have been called by the Risen Christ to “go and tell” the good news of Gospel equality.  For some like the hierarchy, women priests are a revolution, for millions of Catholics, we are a holy shakeup whose time has come.

  The Gospel of John portrays a close relationship between Mary of Magdala and Jesus. When the other disciples come and go, Mary stays nearby, weeping, searching for clues of Jesus whereabouts.   Her grief is real. She has listened to his teaching and experienced his healing love.   This type of deep friendship suggests a break with the social conventions of the time.   Jesus treats Mary of Magdala as an equal among the male disciples. In an age where a woman’s word was suspect, the Risen Christ calls her to be the apostle to the apostles to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection, the central belief of Christianity. 

  In an ancient Coptic Christian Scripture, “Pistis Sophia”, written in the Second Century, Jesus chooses Mary of Magdala and John to “be on my right and on my left.” Mary’s prominence is reflected throughout the document. She asks 39 out of 46 questions and participates in providing interpretation of this document. Peter expresses resentment toward her throughout the work: “My Lord we shall not be able to endure this woman, for she takes our opportunity and she has not let any of us speak and takes all the time herself.” Mary objects to Peter’s efforts to intimidate her and charges that “ he hates the female race.”  History is repeating itself today!

On Holy Thursday, April 5th, Pope Benedict chastised the growing number of male priests for their support of women priests. 400 Austrian priests and 300 German theologians have endorsed women priests. 800 Irish priests called the pope’s intervention “unfair, unwarranted and unwise.” (Irish Independent)

  In the Gospel of Mary, written early in the Second Century, Jesus warns the disciples against following a “set of rules and laws not given by him.” Mary tells the disciples to proclaim the Gospel without fear. She assures them of the Savior’s presence. In the second part, she shares a vision she has received. Andrew and Peter react with scorn to her revelations but Levi defends her:

“Peter , thou has ever been of hasty temper. Now I see that thou dost exercise thyself against the woman like the adverseries. But if the Savior has made her worthy, who then art thou to reject her?”

The early Church Fathers affirmed to Mary’s leadership among the apostles.
Pope Hippolytus who lived from 170 to 236 AD, addressed the role of women in early Christianity: “Lest the female apostles doubt the angels, Christ himself came to them so that the women would be apostles of Christ… Christ showed himself to the male apostles and said to them…’It is I who appeared to the women and I who wanted to send them to you as apostles.’” (Brock, pp. 43-49)

  Gregory of Antioch (d. 593) portrays Jesus as appearing to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb and saying to them: “Be the first teachers to the teachers. So that Peter who denied me learns that I can also choose women as apostles.”   (Brock, p. 15)

  In Romans 16, St. Paul praises Junia and Andronicus, as “outstanding apostles” who were in Christ before he was. Since Paul, Junia and Andronicus were apostles, there were more than 12 apostles. The “twelve” was a symbolic number referring to the twelve tribes of Israel. And, of course, in spite of what the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic church states, Jesus did not ordain anyone at the last supper. Scholars, like Gary Macy, in The Hidden History of Women's Ordination , present scholarly evidence of women in Holy Orders during the first twelve hundred years of the church's history. (One could say that is the church's best kept secret, but NO MORE!!)

  Roman Catholic Women Priests are ordained in apostolic succession because a male bishop with apostolic succession and in communion with the pope ordained our first bishops!

 In 2002, 7 women were ordained on the Danube, in 2006, 12 women were ordained in the first U.S. Ordination in Pittsburgh. Now there are approximately 125. Women Priests are in Europe, U.S. Canada, and   Latin America.

 As part of an international initiative of the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests claims equality as a human right.  Our vision is justice for all, justice for the poor, justice for women, and justice for women in the church including ordination.

 Our liberation movement is living prophetic obedience to the Spirit by disobeying an unjust, man-made, canon law that discriminates against women in our church. Sexism, like racism, is a sin.   Women in the Roman Catholic Church are treated like second class citizens. Like Rosa Parks, whose refusal to sit in the back of the bus helped to ignite the civil rights movement, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests are renewing and reforming the church. We serve the people of God as priests in a Christ-centered, Spirit-filled, inclusive community of equals.
We women priests in ARCWP stand in solidarity with Roman Catholic women and all women. We believe women have the divinely human right to make reproductive decisions on their own behalf-without consulting male priests or bishops. 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used a method of contraception banned by the U.S. bishops. 

We are also aware of our sisters who live in abject poverty in the U.S. and across the globe. Many of these women have been denied access to affordable birth control by their governments. Others are forcibly denied the use of contraceptives by husbands or male partners who have no regard for their female partner’s safety or volition. The results of this tragedy has led to millions of deaths for women and children throughout the world especially in sub- Sahara Africa and the poorest parts of South Asia where contraceptives are frequently unavailable.  If women priests were decision-makers in our church, contraception would not be an issue.  Women priests are visible reminders that women are sacred and equal images of God and therefore, have the right and responsibility to plan and care for their families.

The New Testament identifies the crucified Christ with the Wisdom of God.   …”to those who are called, Christ is the power and the wisdom of God.” ( 1 Cor. 24) The connection in scripture is made between the crucified Jesus of Nazareth and the cosmic Risen Christ in Christ- Sophia. In this liturgy today we integrate this powerful image of Christ Sophia in our prayer and song. Thanks to our music director Kathleen Rosenberg for the beautiful musical Mass of Christ Sophia which she composed.

  Now we ordain our beloved Sisters, Miriam and Wanda, who will continue to minister on the margins, living compassion and justice no matter what obstacles come in their way. Wouldn’t Mary of Magdala be proud of them? … and us!! Alleluia!

(Ann Brock's book, Mary Magdalene, the First Apostle, concludes that the job description for apostle was the experience of an appearance of the resurrected Christ and a divine mandate. In that connection she quotes Gregory of Antioch (sixth century). Gregory portrays Jesus as coming to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb with the charge, "Be the first teachers to the teachers. So that Peter who denied me learns that I can also choose women as apostles" (p. 15). Other texts are discussed in chapter five: the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of MaryPistis Sophia, the Dialogue of the Savior, and the Sophia of Jesus Christ. She concludes that the tensions between Peter and Mary Magdalene rooted in historical controversies over the leadership role of women in the church. )

Bridget Mary Meehan, D.Min., a Sister for Christian Community, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2006. She was ordained a bishop on April 19, 2009.  Dr. Meehan is currently Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program for Global Ministries University, and is the author of 20 books, including   Living Gospel Equality Now: Loving in the Heart of God, The Healing Power of Prayer and Praying with Women of the Bible . She presides at liturgies in Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida and celebrates liturgies with groups in N.VA.  Dr. Meehan can be reached at and

"Options Facing LCWR Stark," Say Canon Lawyers/ NCR

"...As the largest leadership organization for U.S. women religious begins to discern what steps to take following news Wednesday that the Vatican has ordered it to reform and to place itself under the authority of an archbishop, experts say the options available to the group are stark.
Ultimately, several canon lawyers told NCR, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has two choices: Either comply with the order or face ouster as a Vatican-recognized representative of sisters in the United States.
What’s more, the lawyers say, LCWR has no recourse for appeal of the decision, which the U.S. bishops' conference announced Wednesday in a press release. That release stated that, following a three-year "doctrinal assessment" by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain had been appointed to review and potentially revise the organization's policies.
One prominent canon lawyer, Oblate Fr. Frank Morrissey, summed up the situation facing LCWR in one sentence: “If they want to continue as a recognized conference, they’re going to have to work with this.”
Another, Jesuit Fr. Ladislas Orsy, also put it succinctly: “It’s not very complicated. The Vatican is taking control. They are taking control ... and they hope that in five years, they will put [LCWR] on a different track.”
While other canon lawyers contacted by NCR generally confirmed Orsy and Morrissey’s analysis, they declined to speak on the record, citing the sensitivity of the situation. A short press release from the LCWR on Thursday morning said the group was preparing to meet with its national board members “within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response.”
In its document explaining the move, the Vatican congregation said Sartain was to have authority over the LCWR in five areas, including:
  • Revising LCWR statutes;
  • Reviewing LCWR plans and programs;
  • Creating new programs for the organization;
  • Reviewing and offering guidance on the application of liturgical texts; and
  • Reviewing LCWR's affiliations with other organizations, citing specifically NETWORK and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes.
That authority, the document said, is granted under two specific canons in the Code of Canon Law that deal with the establishment and work of conferences that represent major superiors of religious orders in different countries.
The language of one of those canons, said Morrissey, a professor of canon law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Canada, is “particularly important” to consider when evaluating the options open to LCWR.
That canon, No. 708 in the code, states that “major superiors can be associated usefully in conferences or councils so that by common efforts they work to achieve more fully the purpose of the individual institutes.”
The key words there, Morrissey said, is the phrase “can be associated usefully.” Important to recognize, he said, is the fact that the canon does not say that major superiors “must” meet. That means the Vatican “can always, at any time, just remove the recognition of a conference. It certainly has the right to do that,” he said.
That power, Morrissey said, is also recognized in another section of the code that refers to the organization of “public associations of the Christian faithful.” In that section, canon 320 states tersely that “only the Holy See can suppress associations it has erected.”
That means, Morrissey said, that “the bishops in the States or any other country couldn’t suppress the conference themselves. They could ask the Holy See to do it, but they couldn’t force it.”
In terms of whether LCWR would have any ability to appeal the decision, Orsy said flatly: “There is no recourse here. None whatsoever...”

[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is]
For the full copy of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's letter, click here [2]. For the full copy of Levada's letter, click here [3].
Previous reporting from NCR on the Vatican's investigation of LCWR:

"Support the Sisters" Sign-On Petition Online/ Nun Justice

"Burn the Nuns" media stories links

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vatican Investigates U.S. Nuns, Huffington Post link

Women Religious Slammed by Vatican/ Open Doors to Nuns Called to Priesthood/Time to Declare Non-Canonical Status by Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

Bridget Mary's Reflection,

It is time for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), representing the majority of nuns in the United States, to issue an emancipation proclamation from Vatican control. 
"Free at last" as our brother Martin Luther King reminds us, "thank God almighty, we are free at last!."
The Vatican has put their cards on the table.  No surprise that it is all about power and control-
obedience to the hierarchy vs. primacy of conscience. 
One example, of course, is your refusal to support the Vatican's teaching on women's ordination! Imagine that!

"For example, the LCWR publicly expressed in 1977 its refusal to assent to the
teaching of Inter insigniores on the reservation of priestly ordination to men. This public
refusal has never been corrected. Beyond this, the CDF understands that speakers at
conferences or general assemblies do not submit their texts for prior review by the LCWR
Presidency. But, as the Assessment demonstrated, the sum of those talks over the years is a
matter of serious concern."
Sisters, as you have done so in the past throughout the church's history, speak truth to power. 
Name the Vatican misogyny publically in your response and express your affirmation of gender equality including women's ordination.   
It is a "Teresa Kane" moment for the LCWR! I was present when Mercy Sister Teresa Kane clearly and boldly raised the issue of women's ordination to Pope John Paul 11 on his visit to the United States in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.
Do not try to "make nice". 
Name the oppression of women, the sexism, at the heart of this decree. in this decree.
Nuns should not be treated as second class citizens by the male hierarchy.
The spiritual integrity of women in our church is at stake. 
Millions of Catholics love and support you, our Sisters.  
For women religious called to priestly ministry in a community of equals, it is time to move forward with public ordinations as a witness to Gospel equality. This is our sacred heritage. 
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests welcomes nuns to serve our church in renewed priestly ministry in a more open, inclusive, egalitarian church! Justice for all, justice for the poor, justice for women, including women's ordination is our unique charism and reflects your vision too!
As a Sister for Christian Community, I am blessed with freedom to live my vocation as a woman priest. I serve God's people in an inclusive Christ-centered, community empowered by the Spirit in Mary Mother of Jesus Catholic Community in Florida!  Sisters, the ball is in your court again! It is apparent to many in the women priests movement that the Vatican is the gift that keeps on giving. The more they oppose, the more we grow! May this decree issue in your cry of "enough" as you move forward inspired by the liberating Spirit of God. 
Bridget Mary Meehan, SFCC and ARCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests


Pro Doctrina Fidei

Doctrinal Assessment

of the

Leadership Conference of Women Religious
I. Introduction
The context in which the current doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference
of Women Religious in the United States of America is best situated is articulated by Pope

John Paul II in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata of 1996.

Commenting on the genius of the charism of religious life in the Church, Pope John Paul

says: “In founders and foundresses we see a constant and lively sense of the Church, which

they manifest by their full participation in all aspects of the Church’s life, and in their ready

obedience to the Bishops and especially to the Roman Pontiff. Against this background of

love towards Holy Church ‘the pillar and bulwark of truth’ (1 Tim 3:15), we readily

understand…the full ecclesial communion which the Saints, founders and foundresses, have
shared in diverse and often difficult times and circumstances. They are examples which
consecrated persons need constantly to recall if they are to resist the particularly strong
centrifugal and disruptive forces at work today. A distinctive aspect of ecclesial communion
is allegiance of mind and heart to the Magisterium of the Bishops, an allegiance which must
be lived honestly and clearly testified to before the People of God by all consecrated persons,
especially those involved in theological research, teaching, publishing, catechesis and the use
of the means of social communication. Because consecrated persons have a special place in
the Church, their attitude in this regard is of immense importance for the whole People of

God” (n. 46).

The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious

to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and

institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the

years. Pope John Paul II expressed this gratitude well in his meeting with Religious from the

United States in San Francisco on September 17, 1987, when he said: I rejoice because of

your deep love of the Church and your generous service to God’s people...The extensive

Catholic educational and health care systems, the highly developed network of social services

in the Church - none of this would exist today, were it not for your highly motivated

dedication and the dedication of those who have gone before you. The spiritual vigor of so
many Catholic people testifies to the efforts of generations of religious in this land. The
history of the Church in this country is in large measure your history at the service of God’s

people. The renewal of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious which is the goal of


this doctrinal Assessment is in support of this essential charism of Religious which has been

so obvious in the life and growth of the Catholic Church in the United States.

While recognizing that this doctrinal Assessment concerns a particular conference of
major superiors and therefore does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of
Women Religious in the member Congregations which belong to that conference,
nevertheless the Assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in
Consecrated Life. On the doctrinal level, this crisis is characterized by a diminution of the
fundamental Christological center and focus of religious consecration which leads, in turn, to
a loss of a “constant and lively sense of the Church” among some Religious. The current
doctrinal Assessment arises out of a sincere concern for the life of faith in some Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. It arises as well from a conviction that the
work of any conference of major superiors of women Religious can and should be a fruitful
means of addressing the contemporary situation and supporting religious life in its most
“radical” sense—that is, in the faith in which it is rooted. According to Canon Law,
conferences of major superiors are an expression of the collaboration between the Holy See,
Superiors General, and the local Conferences of Bishops in support of consecrated life. The
overarching concern of the doctrinal Assessment is, therefore, to assist the Leadership
Conference of Women Religious in the United States in implementing an ecclesiology of
communion founded on faith in Jesus Christ and the Church as the essential foundation for its
important service to religious Communities and to all those in consecrated life.
II. The doctrinal Assessment
The decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to undertake a
doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) was
communicated to the LCWR Presidency during their meeting with Cardinal William Levada
in Rome on April 8, 2008. At that meeting, three major areas of concern were given as
motivating the CDF’s decision to initiate the Assessment:

o Addresses at the LCWR Assemblies. Addresses given during LCWR annual

Assemblies manifest problematic statements and serious theological, even doctrinal

errors. The Cardinal offered as an example specific passages of Sr. Laurie Brink’s

address about some Religious “moving beyond the Church” or even beyond Jesus.

This is a challenge not only to core Catholic beliefs; such a rejection of faith is also a
serious source of scandal and is incompatible with religious life. Such unacceptable
positions routinely go unchallenged by the LCWR, which should provide resources for
member Congregations to foster an ecclesial vision of religious life, thus helping to
correct an erroneous vision of the Catholic faith as an important exercise of charity.
Some might see in Sr. Brink’s analysis a phenomenological snapshot of religious life
today. But Pastors of the Church should also see in it a cry for help.

o Policies of Corporate Dissent. The Cardinal spoke of this issue in reference to letters

the CDF received from “Leadership Teams” of various Congregations, among them

LCWR Officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s

ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons, e.g.

letters about New Ways Ministry’s conferences. The terms of the letters suggest that
these sisters collectively take a position not in agreement with the Church’s teaching
on human sexuality. It is a serious matter when these Leadership Teams are not
providing effective leadership and example to their communities, but place themselves
outside the Church’s teaching.

o Radical Feminism. The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist

themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations

sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith

in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world.

Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has
structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed
doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred
Subsequently, in a letter dated February 18, 2009, the CDF confirmed its decision to
undertake a doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR and named Most Rev. Leonard Blair, Bishop
of Toledo, as the CDF’s Delegate for the Assessment. This decision was further discussed
with the LCWR Presidency during their visit to the CDF on April 22, 2009. During that
meeting, Cardinal Levada confirmed that the doctrinal Assessment comes as a result of
several years of examination of the doctrinal content of statements from the LCWR and of
their annual conferences. The Assessment’s primary concern is the doctrine of the faith that
has been revealed by God in Jesus Christ, presented in written form in the divinely inspired
Scriptures, and handed on in the Apostolic Tradition under the guidance of the Church’s
Magisterium. It is this Apostolic teaching, so richly and fully taught by the Second Vatican
Council, that should underlie the work of a conference of major superiors of Religious which,
by its nature, has a canonical relationship to the Holy See and many of whose members are of
Pontifical right.

Most Rev. Leonard Blair communicated a set of doctrinal Observations to the LCWR

in a letter dated May 11, 2009, and subsequently met with the Presidency on May 27, 2009.

The LCWR Presidency responded to the Observations in a letter dated October 20, 2009.

Based on this response, and on subsequent correspondence between the Presidency of the

LCWR and the Delegate, Bishop Blair submitted his findings to the CDF on December 22,


On June 25, 2010, Bishop Blair presented further documentation on the content of the

LCWR’s Mentoring Leadership Manual and also on the organizations associated with the

LCWR, namely Network and The Resource Center for Religious Institutes. The

documentation reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR

promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on

the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public

debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States. Further, issues of crucial
importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life
and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church
teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or
challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and
morals, are not compatible with its purpose.
All of the documentation from the doctrinal Assessment including the LCWR
responses was presented to the Ordinary Session of the Cardinal and Bishop Members of the
CDF on January 12, 2011. The decision of that Ordinary Session was:
1) The current doctrinal and pastoral situation of the LCWR is grave and a matter of
serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious
Congregations in other parts of the world;
2) After the currently-ongoing Visitation of religious communities of women in the
United States is brought to a conclusion, the Holy See should intervene with the
prudent steps necessary to effect a reform of the LCWR;
3) The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will examine the various forms of
canonical intervention available for the resolution of the problematic aspects present in
the LCWR.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in an Audience granted to the Prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, on January 14,
2011, approved the decisions of the Ordinary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their
implementation. This action by the Holy Father should be understood in virtue of the
mandate given by the Lord to Simon Peter as the rock on which He founded his Church (cf.
Luke 22:32): “I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail; and when you have
turned to me, you must strengthen the faith of your brothers and sisters.” This Scripture
passage has long been applied to the role of the Successors of Peter as Head of the Apostolic
College of Bishops; it also applies to the role of the Pope as Chief Shepherd and Pastor of the
Universal Church. Not least among the flock to whom the Pope’s pastoral concern is directed
are women Religious of apostolic life, who through the past several centuries have been so
instrumental in building up the faith and life of the Holy Church of God, and witnessing to
God’s love for humanity in so many charitable and apostolic works.
Since the Final Report of the Apostolic Visitation of women Religious in the United
States has now been submitted to the Holy See (in December, 2011), the CDF turns to the
implementation of the above-mentioned decisions approved by the Holy Father as an
extension of his pastoral outreach to the Church in the United States. For the purpose of this
implementation, and in consultation with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life
and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) and the Congregation for Bishops, the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to execute the mandate to assist in the
necessary reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious through the appointment
of a Archbishop Delegate, who will – with the assistance of a group of advisors (bishops,
priests, and women Religious) – proceed to work with the leadership of the LCWR to achieve
the goals necessary to address the problems outlined in this statement. The mandate given to
the Delegate provides the structure and flexibility for the delicate work of such
The moment for such a common effort seems all the more opportune in view of an
implementation of the recommendations of the recent Apostolic Visitation of women

Religious in the United States, and in view of this year’s 50th anniversary of the beginning of

the Second Vatican Council, whose theological vision and practical recommendations for

Consecrated Life can serve as a providential template for review and renewal of religious life

in the United States, and of the mandate of Church law for the work of this conference of

major superiors to which the large majority of congregations of women Religious in the
United States belong.
III. Implementation: Conclusions of Doctrinal Assessment and Mandate
1) Principal Findings of the Doctrinal Assessment
LCWR General Assemblies, Addresses, and Occasional Papers
One of the principal means by which the LCWR promotes its particular vision of
religious life is through the annual Assemblies it sponsors. During the Assessment process,
Bishop Blair, in his letter of May 11, 2009, presented the LCWR Presidency with a study and
doctrinal evaluation of keynote addresses, presidential addresses, and Leadership Award
addresses over a 10 year period. This study found that the talks, while not scholarly

theological discourses per se, do have significant doctrinal and moral content and implications

which often contradict or ignore magisterial teaching.

In its response, the Presidency of the LCWR maintained that it does not knowingly

invite speakers who take a stand against a teaching of the Church “when it has been declared

as authoritative teaching.” Further, the Presidency maintains that the assertions made by
speakers are their own and do not imply intent on the part of the LCWR. Given the facts
examined, however, this response is inadequate. The Second Vatican Council clearly
indicates that an authentic teaching of the Church calls for the religious submission of

intellect and will, and is not limited to defined dogmas or ex cathedra statements (cf. Lumen

gentium, 25). For example, the LCWR publicly expressed in 1977 its refusal to assent to the

teaching of Inter insigniores on the reservation of priestly ordination to men. This public

refusal has never been corrected. Beyond this, the CDF understands that speakers at

conferences or general assemblies do not submit their texts for prior review by the LCWR

Presidency. But, as the Assessment demonstrated, the sum of those talks over the years is a

matter of serious concern.
Several of the addresses at LCWR conferences present a vision or description of
religious life that does not conform to the faith and practice of the Church. Since the LCWR
leadership has offered no clarification about such statements, some might infer that such
positions are endorsed by them. As an entity approved by the Holy See for the coordination
and support of religious Communities in the United States, LCWR also has a positive
responsibility for the promotion of the faith and for providing its member Communities and
the wider Catholic public with clear and persuasive positions in support of the Church’s
vision of religious life.
Some speakers claim that dissent from the doctrine of the Church is justified as an
exercise of the prophetic office. But this is based upon a mistaken understanding of the
dynamic of prophecy in the Church: it justifies dissent by positing the possibility of
divergence between the Church’s magisterium and a “legitimate” theological intuition of

some of the faithful. “Prophecy,” as a methodological principle, is here directed at the

Magisterium and the Church’s pastors, whereas true prophecy is a grace which accompanies

the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and ministries within the Church,

regulated and verified by the Church’s faith and teaching office. Some of the addresses at

LCWR-sponsored events perpetuate a distorted ecclesiological vision, and have scant regard
for the role of the Magisterium as the guarantor of the authentic interpretation of the Church’s

The analysis of the General Assemblies, Presidential Addresses, and Occasional

Papers reveals, therefore, a two-fold problem. The first consists in positive error (i.e.

doctrinally problematic statements or formal refutation of Church teaching found in talks

given at LCWR-sponsored conferences or General Assemblies). The second level of the

problem concerns the silence and inaction of the LCWR in the face of such error, given its

responsibility to support a vision of religious life in harmony with that of the Church and to
promote a solid doctrinal basis for religious life. With this Assessment, the CDF intends to
assist the LCWR in placing its activity into a wider context of religious life in the universal
Church in order to foster a vision of consecrated life consistent with the Church’s teaching. In
this wider context, the CDF notes the absence of initiatives by the LCWR aimed at promoting
the reception of the Church’s teaching, especially on difficult issues such as Pope John Paul

II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis and Church teaching about homosexuality.

The Role of the LCWR in the Doctrinal Formation of Religious Superiors and Formators

The program for new Superiors and Formators of member Communities and other

resources provided to these Communities is an area in which the LCWR exercises an

influence. The doctrinal Assessment found that many of the materials prepared by the LCWR

for these purposes (Occasional Papers, Systems Thinking Handbook) do not have a sufficient

doctrinal foundation. These materials recommend strategies for dialogue, for example when

sisters disagree about basic matters of Catholic faith or moral practice, but it is not clear

whether this dialogue is directed towards reception of Church teaching. As a case in point,

the Systems Thinking Handbook presents a situation in which sisters differ over whether the

Eucharist should be at the center of a special community celebration since the celebration of

Mass requires an ordained priest, something which some sisters find “objectionable.”

According to the Systems Thinking Handbook this difficulty is rooted in differences at the

level of belief, but also in different cognitive models (the “Western mind” as opposed to an

“Organic mental model”). These models, rather than the teaching of the Church, are offered

as tools for the resolution of the controversy of whether or not to celebrate Mass. Thus the

Systems Thinking Handbook presents a neutral model of Congregational leadership that does

not give due attention to the responsibility which Superiors are called to exercise, namely,

leading sisters into a greater appreciation or integration of the truth of the Catholic faith.

The Final Report of the Apostolic Visitation of Religious Communities of Women in

the United States (July, 2011) found that the formation programs among several communities
that belong to the LCWR did not have significant doctrinal content but rather were oriented
toward professional formation regarding particular issues of ministerial concern to the
Institute. Other programs reportedly stressed their own charism and history, and/or the
Church’s social teaching or social justice in general, with little attention to basic Catholic

doctrine, such as that contained in the authoritative text of the Catechism of the Catholic

Church. While these formation programs were not directly the object of this doctrinal

Assessment, it may nevertheless be concluded that confusion about the Church’s authentic

doctrine of the faith is reinforced, rather than corrected, by the lack of doctrinal content in the

resources provided by the LCWR for Superiors and Formators. The doctrinal confusion

which has undermined solid catechesis over the years demonstrates the need for sound
doctrinal formation—both initial and ongoing—for women Religious and novices just as it
does for priests and seminarians, and for laity in ministry and apostolic life. In this way, we
can hope that the secularized contemporary culture, with its negative impact on the very
identity of Religious as Christians and members of the Church, on their religious practice and
common life, and on their authentic Christian spirituality, moral life, and liturgical practice,
can be more readily overcome.
2) The Mandate for Implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment
In the universal law of the Church (Code of Canon Law [C.I.C.] for the Latin
Church), Canons 708 and 709 address the establishment and work of conferences of major
Can. 708: Major superiors can be associated usefully in conferences or councils so
that by common efforts they work to achieve more fully the purpose of the individual
institutes, always without prejudice to their autonomy, character, and proper spirit, or to
transact common affairs, or to establish appropriate coordination and cooperation with the
conferences of bishops and also with individual bishops.
Can. 709: Conferences of major superiors are to have their own statutes approved by
the Holy See, by which alone they can be erected even as a juridic person and under whose
supreme direction they remain.
In the light of these canons, and in view of the findings of the doctrinal Assessment, it is clear
that greater emphasis needs to be placed both on the relationship of the LCWR with the
Conference of Bishops, and on the need to provide a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of
the Church as they “work to achieve more fully the purpose of the individual institutes.”
Therefore in order to implement a process of review and conformity to the teachings
and discipline of the Church, the Holy See, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, will appoint an Archbishop Delegate, assisted by two Bishops, for review, guidance
and approval, where necessary, of the work of the LCWR. The Delegate will report to the
CDF, which will inform and consult with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life
and Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for Bishops.
The mandate of the Delegate is to include the following:
1) To revise LCWR Statutes to ensure greater clarity about the scope of the mission
and responsibilities of this conference of major superiors. The revised Statutes will be
submitted to the Holy See for approval by the CICLSAL.
2) To review LCWR plans and programs, including General Assemblies and
publications, to ensure that the scope of the LCWR’s mission is fulfilled in accord
with Church teachings and discipline. In particular:

- Systems Thinking Handbook will be withdrawn from circulation pending


- LCWR programs for (future) Superiors and Formators will be reformed

- Speakers/presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by

3) To create new LCWR programs for member Congregations for the development of
initial and ongoing formation material that provides a deepened understanding of the
Church’s doctrine of the faith.
4) To review and offer guidance in the application of liturgical norms and texts. For
-The Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours will have a place of priority in
LCWR events and programs.
5) To review LCWR links with affiliated organizations, e.g. Network and Resource
Center for Religious Life.
The mandate of the Delegate will be for a period of up to five years, as deemed
necessary. In order to ensure the necessary liaison with the USCCB (in view of Can. 708),
the Conference of Bishops will be asked to establish a formal link (e.g. a committee structure)
with the Delegate and Assistant Delegate Bishops. In order to facilitate the achievement of
these goals, the Delegate is authorized to form an Advisory Team (clergy, women Religious,
and experts) to assist in the work of implementation.
It will be the task of the Archbishop Delegate to work collaboratively with the officers
of the LCWR to achieve the goals outlined in this document, and to report on the progress of
this work to the Holy See. Such reports will be reviewed with the Delegate at regular
interdicasterial meetings of the CDF and the CICLSAL. In this way, the Holy See hopes to
offer an important contribution to the future of religious life in the Church in the United